Tibetan Town Tense After Protests

Security forces patrol the streets of a mountain town in Qinghai after a man jumps into the Yellow River.

Tashi_Sangpo Tibetan monk Tashi Sangpo in an undated photo.
Friends of Tibet

HONG KONG--Authorities in the remote northwestern Chinese province of Qinghai have dispatched troops to a Tibet-populated region following protests and detentions of dozens of Tibetans over the weekend.

Residents said security forces were patrolling the mountain town of Ragya after the protests, which were centered around the local police station following the death of a Tibetan man.

Local media said the protests began after a Tibetan man held by police on suspicion of "pro-independence" activities disappeared.

Video of the protest shot by local residents on a mobile phone showed crowds chanting, including monks and ordinary Tibetans.

Authorities detained 93 people after the protest, which came hard on the heels of two sensitive anniversaries: the 50th anniversary of a 1959 national uprising by Tibetans during which the Dalai Lama fled into exile and the first anniversary of last year's March 14 unrest in Tibet's capital, Lhasa, which flared following several days of peaceful protest and then spread through Tibetan regions of China.

Man believed dead

The official Xinhua news agency said the protesters were acting on rumors about a man who was believed to have jumped into the Yellow River, which runs through the town at a width of around 60 meters (200 feet).

Tibet's government-in-exile identified the man as a monk named Tashi Sangpo who had been arrested for pulling down a Chinese flag and replacing it with a Tibetan one.

Thubten Samphel, spokesman for the exiled administration, said the Tibetan protests in front of the police station came because Sangpo had "committed suicide by jumping into a river."

A Tibetan from the Ragya region now living in southern India said Tashi Sangpo was called to the nearby Ragya township police station in Machen county on or around March 19 for questioning.

"There were posters and some other incidents of protests in the area starting from March 9, this year," the monk said.

"Before they were taken away, their rooms were searched and the police picked up a laptop computer belonging to Tashi Sangpo," he added.

Chinese authorities have launched a massive security clampdown in recent weeks to quell possible unrest related to the 50th anniversary of the 1959 uprising.

While the Dalai Lama has called on Tibetans within Chinese territory to show restraint, China launched a blistering attack on his call for a "high degree of autonomy" for the Himalayan region within the People's Republic.

Beijing rejects proposal

A signed commentary carried in the official Global Times newspaper in Beijing said the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader's plea for "genuine autonomy for the Tibetan people" was simply another term for "Tibet independence."

Published under the byline Lin Feng, the editorial said the Dalai Lama proposed to set up separate and independent executive, legislative, and judicial organs in Tibet, effectively making the region a separate country.

"The pretext of his autonomy is to negate [the] history that Tibet is an inseparable part of China," the commentary said.

"The 'Greater Tibet' with 'high-level autonomy' which has been dreamed about by the Dalai Lama is actually without Chinese military presence and the diplomatic control of the central government. Then how can China exercise its 'indisputable' sovereignty over Tibet?"

South Africa on Monday barred the Dalai Lama from a peace conference in Johannesburg this week, saying it didn't want to endanger the government's relationship with China.

Apartheid solidarity

The refusal to issue an official invitation generated negative comments from veterans of the struggle against apartheid.

"It is disappointing that South Africa, which has received so much solidarity from the world, doesn't want to give that solidarity to others," Nobel Institute Director Geir Lundestad told The Associated Press in Oslo, referring to South Africa's decades-long fight against apartheid.

Retired Cape Town Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former presidents F.W. de Klerk and Nelson Mandela had issued invitations to fellow Nobel peace laureates like the Dalai Lama on behalf of the South African soccer officials who organized the conference.

Friday's peace conference was called to highlight the first World Cup to be held in Africa, which South Africa will host in 2010. It aimed to gather Nobel laureates, Hollywood celebrities, and others to discuss issues ranging from racism to how sports can bring people and nations together.

Tutu and members of the Nobel Committee have now canceled plans to attend.

Original reporting by RFA's Tibetan service. Director: Jigme Ngapo. Written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.


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